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Wire and Water Don't Mix

Posted By Ed Sherman , Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, January 30, 2018

OK, so you are probably wondering what’s going on in this photo (see below). Well it’s part of a little experiment I conducted over the recent holiday break. I had been working on an article for Cruising World magazine that was related to hidden damage to boats that may have been damaged and ultimately “totaled” by the insurance company down in the Caribbean this past fall. The crux of the article was what hidden damage there may be that could make a great deal on a damaged boat look like not such a great deal. In my research for that article I came across some information about a test that one of the surveyor groups conducted some years ago trying to find out how far up an insulated wire water might migrate if either end of the wire were exposed to sea water. Grab a copy of the 2018 DIY issue to read that article entitled “Trouble Lurks in Wet Wiring”. The bottom line is that I had some time to kill and decided to try testing this potential problem myself. So, the three pronged plug and 30″ of wire you see in the above photo is the result of my little experiment. You can clearly see the white fuzz surrounding each of the three conductor terminals on the plug assembly shown. This was the end of the wire that was NOT submerged in salt water. This plug and cord was just cut off a failed appliance that I had in my test area. I stripped the wire insulation off one of the three conductors and just left the other two with a clean edge from the cutting pliers.

So, after four weeks you see the result of the test. The moisture from the salt water I had submerged the cut-off end of this length of cable into managed to migrate via capillary action up the entire length of the 30″ length and managed to exit around the terminals. So, what have I learned? If submerged in seawater for any length of time you need to be concerned that this migration will travel along the individual strands of copper wire and ultimately cause some pretty extreme corrosion!

Tags:  Boat Wiring  Corrosion 

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